Gujō, Japan Is The Capital Of Artificial Foods

Have you ever looked at a restaurant's menu and wished you could see the food before you order? Is the lobster ravioli worth the price, or will you be stuffing your face on fast food later? Perhaps, instead, you've traveled to a new country and had no idea what you were ordering, opting to trust your blind intuition. The Japanese have figured this out, and it comes in the form of beautiful and lifelike artificial foods.

In the ancient city of Gujō, Japan, one of the top tourist attractions is the world-renowned food replica factory. Yes, you read that correctly. The artificial food, or sampuru, business began in 1917 in Gujo Hachiman (now Gujō), Japan. There's a romanticized legend that Japan's father of fake food, Takizo Iwasaki, simply had an epiphany one day as he sat with his ill wife by candlelight and was inspired by the melting wax. The more likely story is that he wanted to replicate the success of the wax skin and organ replicas that were used for medical studies at the time by being a pioneer in the food industry.

Fast forward a century, and the artificial food industry is still booming: it rakes in 60 to 90 million yen annually. Iwasaki Co. Ltd. is an empire claiming to manufacture 80 percent of Japan's sampuru under the axiom, "Expressive power of replica food are endless." The factory replicates thousands of different foods—everything from sushi to ice cream to Turkish delicacies.

But how do they do it? Iwasaka Co. Ltd. has about 30 full-time artists who craft each food by hand. According to Vice, they first create a mold by pressing real food into a piece of silicone. Next, they pour colored plastic into the mold, then bake it until it's solid. The final step is where the real creativity comes in: the artist airbrushes and hand-paints every realistic detail before finishing it with a glossy lacquer and assembling it with the other pieces in the dish being made. Sampuru is still widely used in commercials, for speeding up the ordering process, and for helping tourists decide what to order. Itadakimasu!

To go behind the scenes at the artificial food factory and learn more about the art of food, watch the following videos.

Fake Food, Real Art: Crafting Display Delicacies

Peak into the factory that makes over half of all artificial food displays in Japan—crafted by hand:

Meet Food Artist Ida Skivenes

Ida Skivenes is famous for playing with her food.

Restaurants Sell You Fake Food

There's artificial food, then there's fake food. DNews uncovers the truth behind some of your favorite restaurant dishes.

Written by Curiosity Staff November 23, 2016

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